On 19 February 2010 a report on the state of conservation of the Meidan Emam, Esfahan was submitted by the State Party. The report directly addressed the issues outlined in the Decision 33 COM 7B.75 of the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009).
a) Reduction in height of the Jahan-Nama building
The State Party reports that this was delayed by structural difficulties but demolition of the remaining parts has now restarted and is expected to be finished soon. The joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission (28 February - 7 March 2010) observed that the 12th floor had been demolished and that demolition of the 11th floor was under way. The mission also reported that the official communication promised by the Iranian authorities to be addressed to the World Heritage Centre before 15 April 2010 with information on and evidence of the completed demolition of two additional floors (12th and 11th) of the Jahan-Nama building complex has not been received. The mission also found that large-scale, ad hoc construction and development projects continue to be planned (for instance, the Atiq Square development project close to the Jama’a Mosque), without prior impact assessments, adequate consultation with concerned stakeholders, or public participation.
b) Impact assessment of the Metro Line project
The State Party has provided the “Report on Environmental Measures taken for Protection of the Chahar-Bagh Historical Boulevard Properties” prepared by consulting engineers ZAFA.
This report concluded that settlement along the Chahar-Bagh historical boulevard would be negligible, as would the impact of the subway construction on the groundwater regime in the project area. It also concluded that other environmental disturbances such as creation of noise, dust, vibration, air pollution, surface and underground utilities breakdown and traffic jam creation along the proposed metro line could be mitigated by the use of a specific tunnelling method - the Earth Pressure Balance (EPB) Shield made by the TBM Company. The disturbances would be restricted to the station site and to the shaft needed to launch the shield.
The 2010 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS monitoring mission found that 90% of the construction work had been completed at the time of the mission. The mission was informed that during the excavation, ground settlements were observed at five sites. Unfortunately, no monitoring was performed on the ground and on the foundation of the Chahar-Bagh School and the Si-o-se Pol Bridge. The team made a visual inspection of specific ground locations adjacent to the School and the Bridge, and found no cracks or physical deformations. Some cracking was noted in the exterior recessed panels of the front wall of the School but it was not clear when these occurred. The mission, recognizing that this area falls outside of the inscribed property but within an area which has been considered for possible extension by the World Heritage Committee, makes recommendations for ongoing monitoring. It also indicated that further development of the metro line system (Metro Line 2) is envisaged.
c) Nomination of the Historic Axis of Esfahan (Chahar-Bagh)
The State Party report notes that work on the nomination is proceeding and that it is considering carefully the possible impacts of the metro line on the historic buildings and sites within the zone of the historic axis and the remedies if any that should be considered in the execution. The mission was informed that the authorities intended to nominate the extension within 3 years. However it is the mission’s view that unless clear planning and control regulations are in place and strictly respected, there is no guarantee that the Outstanding Universal Value of the proposed extension will be properly protected. The State Party continues to approve development projects with the potential to affect the cultural and historic significance of Esfahan, yet there are still no established mechanisms for undertaking systematic cultural, social, environmental impact assessments prior to designing large scale development projects close to World Heritage property.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies concur with the conclusions of the 2010 World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS joint monitoring mission as regards the lack of vision for the management of Esfahan as a whole and its surrounding historic fabric. Decisions appear to be made in reaction to development applications, and there is some discord amongst various stakeholder groups. As the mission concluded, there needs to be a carefully considered and managed balance between urban development and heritage protection. In view of the proposed extension of the property to include the Historic Axis of Esfahan, a strategically coordinated long term vision for the protection and management of Esfahan as a historic city needs to be developed to ensure, in turn, a values-based approach to the protection and management of the World Heritage property. Because the overall development pressure on the property is so strong, regional cooperation between all government and religious bodies with an interest in the World Heritage property is essential.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies recommend that the World Heritage Committee requests that the State Party develop a management plan for the current World Heritage property including its proposed extension, and the historic city as an encompassing buffer zone. This should be developed in consultation with all stakeholders, and should define a strategic vision and establish the needed coordinating processes. The Management Plan should consider the transport needs of the city, traffic management and parking provision, tourism management, housing and other infrastructure needs as well as the conservation of the historic fabric. It should set height limits in defined areas, and indicate areas where infill development is desired. A precursor should be a view line study to identify where height restriction is absolutely necessary. The Management Plan should include a process for sound heritage impact assessment and adequate consultation to control major development projects. It is also essential that ongoing monitoring of the historic buildings around the Meidan and along Chahar-Bagh continues.